A Real Life JA Role Model, Globally and Locally

In his second year of the full-time MBA program, UCLA Anderson student Devin McGrath already has an impressive resume in community building and volunteer-work.

Devin McGrath

It was through his post-baccalaureate community involvement that McGrath was introduced to Junior Achievement. It was not in the United States that McGrath found JA, but in a country 4,700 miles away from where he grew up.

A New York native, McGrath graduated from Bentley University in Massachusetts with a BS in management and gained extensive leadership experience. After college, Devin was ready to make a difference in the world, so he joined the Peace Corps as an economic development volunteer. He was sent to Bulgaria.

In the small town of Berkovitsa, McGrath involved himself in many community projects and programs. He participated in grant writing, tourism, Habitat for Humanity, recycling and various other projects. Eventually, he discovered JA.

“It sounded to me like [Junior Achievement] was teaching kids every practical business skill,” McGrath said. “It turned out to be my most successful project while in Bulgaria.”

McGrath begin his JA work in the JA Global Program®, starting a cooperative with local tradesmen and crafters. The business was named Original Craftsman Berkovitsa, and the goal was simple: to export unique hand-made items from local artisans to Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and across the world. They also would later partner with another JA school in Toronto to import Canadian goods, as well.

The young people involved with OCB immediately grasped the concept and what needed to be done.

Devin McGrath

“These kids went from having absolutely no business knowledge, to having to market and sell this company,” McGrath said. “They were able to quickly make it a success.”

OCB became profitable shortly after, with a 185 percent return with their first stock offering.

The business had made such an impact locally, the mayor of Berkovitsa said OCB was one of the eight biggest contributions to the area that year.

As a reward for their success, McGrath and the young people involved in OCB had the opportunity to fly to Toronto to compete against other JA company programs.

“It was so important for the kids to get an opportunity to travel,” McGrath said. “Many had never been outside of Bulgaria.”

At the competition, McGrath was nervous, but thought his team had a chance.

“We had a fantastic product to show,” McGrath said. “The kids really rallied and came together for the competition.”

It turned out, there wasn’t too much to be nervous about. McGrath and his kids’ business won the competition in Toronto.

“It was one of the proudest moments of my life, not because of the business fundamentals they learned or winning the competition, but because of the leadership, confidence and communication skills they grained through the program,” he said.

McGrath believes the curriculum of the JA Global Program played a key role in the success of OCB.

“The program gave so many opportunities to build leadership abilities and business skills. The ideas the kids had were great and really added to the business,” he said. “The practical knowledge JA provides helps students think outside of the box.”

The students in OCB had similar feelings about the program.

“It is wonderful to learn about things like team spirit, networking and marketing from really successful entrepreneurs,” said Peter Bessalev, a JA Student in Bulgaria. “I know they are talking from their own experiences, which shows us that everything is possible if we only believe that we can do it, just as they have done.”

After two years in the Peace Corps, McGrath found himself in Panama for a year, and also found JA was in the region.

“I reached out to a teacher already on board with JA and was able to volunteer in Panama as well,” McGrath said.

Now nearly complete with his MBA program, McGrath had yet another experience with Junior Achievement at UCLA. He was part of a the team training over 300 full time first-year MBA students for UCLA-JA Days in four Los Angeles elementary schools, in October last year.

McGrath will leave UCLA Anderson in the summer, and already has a position lined up with Credit Suisse, a world leading financial services company.

I’m excited for the entrepreneurial aspect of working [at Credit Suisse],” McGrath said. “I am really looking forward to helping people manage one of their most valuable assets – their wealth.

Well-prepared from his degrees at Bentley University and UCLA Anderson, and equipped with his experience volunteering in several countries with Junior Achievement, McGrath is the perfect role model for someone looking to succeed in the business of life.

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About JASoCal

Junior Achievement of Southern California is a volunteer driven, not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing sustainable communities by teaching the economic relevance of staying in school.
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